Dunedin Consort - J.S. Bach: Magnificat - Sinfini Music

Andrew Stewart has heard no finer disc this year than John Butt and the Dunedin Consort's new recording of Bach's Magnificat and Christmas Cantata BWV 63, filled with insight and energy.

Leipzig's burghers expected high musical ritual as part of their Christmas Day services, which Bach provided in abundance during his first year as music director of the city's main churches. John Butt and his Dunedin Consort follow their acclaimed recording of the composer's St John Passion with a liturgical reconstruction of Vespers as it might have been heard at St Nicholas' Church on 25 December 1723.

The results are sensational, on the money in terms of Bach scholarship and outstanding in their musical fervour and richness. Anyone - and that could be everyone - in need of an infallible antidote to dumbed-down seasonal stodge will find it here.

There are so many good things about this recording that it's hard to know where to start. I could listen to Clare Wilkinson sing the first recitative from Bach's Christmas Cantata BWV 63 all day and still be held by her individuality and insight. Everyone involved - from the compact vocal consort and ace period-instrument players to the cohort of congregational singers - pour heart and soul into their work.

The Magnificat performance, prefaced by Butt's full-blooded organ solo, embraces great joy and tenderness, qualities perfectly tuned to the Christmas story. I've heard nothing finer all year.

Sinfini Music
11 November 2015